India Should Buy More Local Pulses to Boost Output, FAO Says

  • India should reduce dependence on overseas purchases
  • Government already building 2-million ton buffer stockpile

India, the world’s top consumer of pulses, needs to increase local purchases to encourage growers to boost acreage as the country’s large vegetarian population depends mainly on the legumes for protein.

The government should increase purchases from farmers to 4 million metric tons to 5 million tons, said Shyam Khadka, India representative of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The government is already building a 2-million ton pulses buffer stockpile from domestic supply and imports.

India is seeking to cut its dependence on overseas supplies of pulses, announcing measures including the stockpile in order to control prices. A wholesale index surged 45 percent since the start of 2015 and higher minimum purchase prices encouraged farmers to plant more pulses. Output is set to climb to a record 22.1 million tons in 2016-17, the government estimates.

“The government has made a good start” by building the inventories, Khadka said in an interview in New Delhi last week. However, to ensure that the minimum support price is effectively available to all farmers, the government may have to increase the quantity it procures in the longer term, he said. That would help boost acreage, or at least prevent a decrease, he said.

A wholesale price index for pulses in India fell 10.4 percent in February, declining for a third month. The index reached a record in November and rallied for a third straight year in 2016. Lentils, chickpeas, black grams and pigeon peas are a staple for most of India’s 1.3 billion people, and demand has been growing. The legumes are often cooked with curry spices, sauces or butter and eaten at most meals with rice and Indian flat bread.

“I don’t want India to depend too much on the international market because that will destabilize the whole global market,” Khadka said. India requires about 30 million tons of pulses to meet adequate nutrition levels and is the largest producer, consumer and importer, he said.

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